1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Difficulties writing optimistic (but annoying) character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lea`Brooks, Aug 6, 2014.

    Hey y'all!

    So my current WIP follows a male creature, who is negative and down about life, and a female human who is happy and optimistic, but naive and kind of annoying.

    I originally wasn't going to make her annoying, but as I got to writing, it just seemed to make sense. So she's a constant talker, which drives my male crazy but he also finds it endearing. She also asks a lot of questions and is pretty nosy. But the hardest part is that she is also very naive and positive, so she doesn't realize that she's being annoying.

    So I'm struggling to write from her perspective. How can I make her oblivious to how annoying she is, yet still make it clear to the reader? I know I can always have my male talk about it when I'm following him, which I've done. But if someone is talking nonstop and receives no response, what goes through their heads? What might drive my female to keep talking even when it seems like no one is listening to her? And how can I make her keep her positive attitude even after someone is rude and tells her to shut up?

    She's harder to write than I expected.. =\
     
  2. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have her up over her head. Make her think she knows what she's doing while really she's clueless. You've got a really annoying girl from what how you described her, so you're okay.

    There was this one book I was beta reading and the girl kept going "Take me to Place X! Now, or I'll kill you!!" And it was just constant. At any point where they would turn off she would flip out. She was unfriendly, unwilling to talk about anything personal, unhelpful, etc. Make her demanding, too. Make her think she's owed something from the male.

    Be careful, though. If it's from her PoV the reader might want to skip the page, chapter, or just put the book down if it's too irritating.
     
  3. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    See, that's something for you to figure out. Is she so annoyingly talkative and optimistic because she's genuinely so clueless about social etiquette? You may say yes, but then, no normal person would be like that, so there's obviously something wrong with her. No, not wrong in the bad way necessarily, though you may choose to make it so. Maybe her cheerfulness is a facade to keep her from facing her problems. Maybe she grew up in a family which was always quieting her down, and now when she gets a chance to speak, she goes on anyway because she wants to be heard. Or, she was born in a very optimistic, encouraging house which never told her to shush, so she never understood when to stop talking. Maybe her mother used such optimism in face of persecution (at hands of their father or whoever) to give the kids a normal environment, so she took upon herself the behavior. And I'm just rambling right now.

    Hence, as for her motivations and thoughts, you could make quite the complex character.

    Of course, making her the first person POV might not be a very good idea, because even if the motivation is convincing, I don't see how long the reader would handle the chattering. Unless you're really good at humor, and you manage to make her monologues and ramblings so interesting or funny to read that even though the reader knows the narrator is annoying, they enjoy it nonetheless. Kind of like how people enjoy complete asinine jerks as lead characters, because they're fun to read. I think it's a slippery slope, but if you think you want to tread it, good luck :)
     
  4. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    There's a few approaches you can take.

    #1- Your character is annoying to the reader but not the characters in the book.

    #2- Your character is annoying to other characters in the book but not the reader.

    #3- Your character is annoying to the reader and other characters.

    Scenario #1 is bad. Good example is Wes Crusher from Start Trek TNG. You shouldn't have this problem.

    Scenario #2 is not as bad as #1 but may fall into the realm of "telling, not showing".

    Scenario #3 I think is best. As a writer my goal is to elicit an emotion from my reader. If I can annoy them with an annoying character I can affect their emotions. When people dislike someone, they feel different with certain things happen to them. If I want you to feel happy at a certain point, I can hurt a character the reader doesn't like, thus using their emotions to make my job easier. I would always balance annoying the reader with some consequence to the character so the reader feels satisfied.
     
  5. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could have the male character do bits of business, like looking away, fiddling with things, that kind of thing that the reader will pick up as showing how bored/annoyed/distracted he is, but give the woman inner thoughts that show her misinterpreting these actions.

    Or if she picks up on his annoyance at all, have her attributing it to something else. "Oh, you're worried about that interview you have later! It'll be fine!" When he says or does things to try to suppress the loquaciousness, have her call him an old grouch (or something) and tell him to cheer up.

    Have her justify her behavior to herself in an upbeat way. As is, "I just had to find out what the snarklefritz was all about, otherwise the whole project would be doomed!"

    Show the same happening with others she interacts with. But have her sunshiny pushiness work to get her what she wants often enough that she feels no need to tone it down.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also known as a Pollyanna.

    Use the reactions of other characters to paint her as annoying in her optimism.
     
  7. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks everyone! That was very helpful.

    A little backstory on her.. Her mother died when she was quite young. Her father is a political figure who cares about power, so he's deeply concerned about what the public thinks of his family. So he forces his two daughters into arranged marriages with young political figures to gain even more support for his career. Deep down, my MC disagrees with the arranged marriage and basically everything her father stands for, but because no one in her family will support her opinion, she keeps quite about it. She adopted her happy demeanor to keep from letting her sadness overwhelm her, and she's naive because her father never let her really experience the world. Being with my male character is the first time she's really been out without her family, since her and her sister were close growing up and did everything together.

    I really like the idea of making her so talkative because she finally can be. Plus, the male character is a creature that she's never seen before, so she's really curious about who he is, what made him that way, etc.

    Eventually, I'm going to have her calm down and be more like able by all. She's going to be more assertive, talk less, realize how faulty her family is, and all that. It's a growing process for her.

    I think I know how to handle this much better now. :) Thanks a lot!
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I talk a lot lol, so maybe I can give you a few pointers.

    And the first most obvious one is this:
    You don't actually realise the other person isn't responding at all.

    :D

    There've been times when my husband would deliberately keep silent in order to see how long it takes me to notice that he's not spoken this entire time lol.

    The thing about talkers is - they don't ask too many questions, and even when they do, and the other person answers, they would find it pretty easy to jump right back in. Kinda like this:

    Talker: "So how was your day?"
    Person: "Oh it was great. Went to this place that does the best cheeseburgers. We-"
    Talker: "Oh is it at that new place in town? What's it called again? Jeeper's Burgers?"
    Person: "Yeah."
    Talker: "Been dying to go try it out for weeks! But it's just so far from where I live, you know? The burger places near home aren't too bad either so I've just never made the effort......(continues for a long time)"

    You see how the Talker manages to steer the conversation right back so they are the ones talking? And the thing is, it's not deliberate - it's just they're wanting to share. It's not that they're not interested in you either.

    I do actually take the hint and eventually stop myself and force myself to listen. I have a friend who's far worse... which she does by responding to something that's completely off topic. You're trying to tell her about a cool film you've seen, and she says something like, "I haven't been to the cinema in ages. You know how I don't have much money. But I've heard about this other place that's pretty cheap - don't you think we should go together?"

    And basically leads the conversation away without giving you a chance to finish saying what you wanted.

    Anyway, the key aspect here is - they're not aware they're doing this, and they're not really aware that people aren't listening or responding half the time.
     
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  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first thought was of someone who has trouble reading social cues, like someone with ADD or Asperger's or something else on the autism spectrum. (I'm not suggesting that you fully understand every element of someone autistic, but a lot of people, including me and most of my friends, seem to be at least a little bit on the spectrum.) One possible way to build sympathy could be if she misses not only negative social cues, but positive ones.
     
  10. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    This was incredibly helpful! Thank you very much!
     
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  11. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Ooooooh, it's the whole "talking at" and not "talking to" situation. Yes, that is defiantly very annoying. Just when you think they're done talking, they start up a completely different story and it starts over again.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    *hangs head in shame*

    Been there, done that. As much as I dislike my retail job, it's forced me to learn how to quiet myself and actually listen to what others are saying.

    You might work it so there's a plot consequence to the fact she doesn't exactly listen to her new other-sentient-being friend when he's telling her something important about himself. This might be one thing that leads her to calm down.
     
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  13. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    To 'show, not tell', portraying it comedically might work, depending on your target tone. One way to do that is have the annoying character notice the other's signs of chagrin, not recognise their significance, and decide to discuss them (which will increasingly exasperate). For example:

    "So then he said... Whoah, what was that!? Was that your teeth? Are you grinding your teeth? Yikes, you shouldn't do that; you could wear your teeth right down; that's really unhealthy. You'd have to get dental work, and that hurts! I think it's expensive too, but I'm not sure; my dad just had mine arranged. Hey actually, I'm not even sure where you could get dental work done (what even are you?). I think most dentists only see humans. Maybe a vet would? But that might be embarassing. So it's probably even more important that you of all people don't grind your... Hey! What did I just say!? You just did it again! Are you even listening to me?"

    Obviously you know your characters best and could tailor the idea to them, but I'd envisioned a lot of stream-of-consciousness chit-chat with few pauses for breath (hence the long paragraph and heavy use of semicolons). Anyway, just an idea. Best of luck to you!
     
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  14. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha! :rofl: I loved the vet part. I may need to use that.

    That's actually a very good idea. :) He's a smoker, and she's not, so I can definitely see her harping on him about it, even though it doesn't effect him the same way.

    Thanks again!!
     

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